Working: A Musical

Rated 4.0

Sacramento City Theatre rounds out their “American season” with Working, a musical adaptation of Studs Terkel’s famous oral history of U.S. laborers. Because Terkel’s book was published in 1974, some of the pieces are a bit dated (remember telephone operators?). But the song selections are solid, as are the voices.

A large ensemble cast ranges from stalwarts of the stage like Martha Kight (who does a fantastic turn as a parking-lot attendant) and Lew Rooker (whose retired fellow, “Joe,” had the graybeards in the audience nodding) to relative newcomers like Zach Bates (whose ironworker gets things off to an excellent start) and Nicole Royster (a cleaning woman with a soaring voice).

The choreography is energetic and makes the most of the performers’ physical presence, as when a group of them enact the repetitive motions of working in a luggage factory. However, a bit of ballet in the number “Millworker” wasn’t quite as effective and didn’t hold up nearly as well as Melissa Verdugo’s vocal performance of the James Taylor song. Unfortunately, the performance space doesn’t allow the singers to shine as they might, and echoes from the ensemble’s chorus occasionally drowned out the lead vocals.

In spite of these minor irritations, though, the production is entertaining and illuminating, a reminder of what we lose when we lose jobs.